Looking at Trade from a Gender Perspective

13 June 2017

The potential of trade and trade policy to advance sustainable development objectives is reflected in the various trade-related commitments contained in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The persistence of significant gender-related constraints in African societies at large, however, means that women and men often play very different roles in their nations’ economies. As such, the gender-differentiated impacts of trade policy need to be taken into account if development strategies are to be truly inclusive.

Across the continent, African women commonly face lingering gender stereotypes as well as specific barriers in accessing resources – including productive resources, finance, education and training, or information – that limit their professional options and economic opportunities. As a result, they often tend to be confined to low-skilled jobs and activities, with only limited perspectives for career development. The broad implications are two-fold. First, there is a need to assess carefully the gendered impacts of trade and trade policy so as to support the economic empowerment of women. Second, the promotion of gender equality, as affirmed in Sustainable Development Goal 5, will play a key role in accelerating economic growth and generating sustainable development on the continent.

The awareness and recognition of gender-differentiated impacts in trade policymaking thus constitutes a necessary first step in formulating policies that enable women and men to benefit from trade processes on an equal footing.

Through which channels do trade and trade policy influence women and gender outcomes? What are the gender-specific constraints that women face in accessing economic opportunities and how does this translate in the trade sphere? How can policymakers adopt more gender-sensitive trade-related policies?

In this issue’s lead article, Simonetta Zarrilli presents an overview of the links between trade and gender with a particular focus on Africa. Her contribution is complemented by two case studies. First, Jane Maigua, Loise Maina, and Charity Ndegwa analyse the challenges and opportunities for women in Kenya’s macadamia nuts industry. Second, Nursel Aydiner Avsar and Mariangela Linoci examine the gender implications of trade in the manufacturing sector of some of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa’s (COMESA) member states. The issue also features an article, authored by Penny Bamber and Cornelia Staritz, that explores trade and gender in the context of global value chains. Finally, Julia Lipowiecka’s piece focuses on the gender-based constraints faced by women in the services sector.

As usual, we welcome your substantive feedback and contributions. Write to us at bridgesafrica@ictsd.ch

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